"What is that sucking sound?" I asked a classroom of seniors at San Pedro High School in California. I had been invited to speak for their Career Day, Making a Difference In Our Youth.
Upon the wall I showed a picture of a vacuum cleaner. A few giggles erupted through the room.
"It's the sound of a vacuum," I answered as I changed the slide to show photos of Obama and Romney. The slide said: "Vision for the Future? What vision?" I continued: "Because our leaders haven't shown us a vision for our future. And what happens when there's a vacuum?"
"Something will rush in to fill it," I answered. The next slide said: "If we don't take charge, someone else will..."
"So since no one is showing us a way, I guess I will," I said and then laughed as I usually do when I say something outrageous and ballsy, but I want to show some humility.
Before I would show them the vision they needed to carry them through their lives, I thought I'd give them a lesson in just how bad our government has been behaving.
First I asked, "What kind of government do we have?" PowerPoint showed them the following selection: Democracy, Republic, Oligarchy, Plutocracy, Kleptocracy, and Corporatocracy. A few bright students answered "democracy."
"Alright," I asked. "What is a democracy?"
"It's where everyone gets a chance to vote," answered one who thought we have a democracy.
"Yes, it's majority rule. It's where everyone has a say," I agreed. "But we don't live in a democracy, we live in a republic," I told the astonished classroom of seniors.
"If we lived in a democracy, then if a majority decided that no one could have abortions, then that would become law," I explained. "It's also called mob rule." I held back from giving them the example that if a large enough group wanted to exterminate Jewish people, I wouldn't be speaking in front of their class or writing this blog post.
"Instead, what we have are democratically elected representatives. Our founding fathers felt this made for good governance. Our representatives will take into consideration what the majority of their constituents want, and leaven it by considering human rights as well as existing law."
I explained each of the above forms of ruler ship and then gave them my opinion. "I think we can show examples of each of these forms of governance in our country. For example, the banks gave us kleptocracy."
The Gramm Leach Bliley Act shown on the wall. I breezed through an explanation of the economic crisis of 2008, though the students were a little confused when I said we were in a recession. They might have slept through the housing crisis because in 2008, they were 13 to 14 years old, and teenagers require a lot of sleep. In fact, I noticed one in the second row with his luscious black mop of hair arranged in insouciant, tousled waves, dozing face down on his desk.
"Did you know, that of the 394 congressional members who voted to pass this bill which essentially ruined our economy, that 94 have been re-elected through seven election cycles? And these are the people who let the banks rob us!"
A few mouths were gaping by that point.
"Your parents and most people in this country keep voting in the same people who messed up our economy," I said. "It's because the banks keep funding them to put ads on television, and everyone watches and believes those political ads," I said. Earlier, I had already asked them if they believed everything they saw on TV, and most of them were cynical enough to say no.
It is as though we voters are in a rut. Only 9 out of 104 incumbents who voted for the Gramm Leach Bliley Act were voted out of office. How could this happen again? With an approval rating of 9%, how does Congress retain nearly the same people who refuse to balance the budget or get a handle on spending?
I have faith in the American people. I believe that with a little education, we can get ourselves out of this mess. And yes, I do have a vision for the future, but it will require us to take a leap of faith and stop thinking like red or blue people.
First, we need a leader who reads economist Jeremy Rifkin's (The Hydrogen Economy) work, and is willing use the bully pulpit to say "We are not going to use oil or coal or natural gas as our main sources of energy anymore. We are going to switch to a hydrogen economy, (to paraphrase John F. Kennedy) 'not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win...'"
Luckily, I know people who are willing to take on this leadership role. All we need is the will of the people behind him or her, and we can do this thing. "I've interviewed presidential candidates that hardly anyone knows about yet. You can find those debates on my YouTube channel," I told the class.
"Did I light any of you up? Are any of you excited about what you learned today?" I asked.
A few kids said "Yes!" and that was enough to make my day. It all starts with a few bold souls.
If you want to know more about this vision, please keep posted and be my fan. I promise to deliver.
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